A cleaning crisis caused by Brexit and Covid could threaten the well-being of the buy to let sector according to a leading lettings industry supplier.
Daniel Evans, chair of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks, says cleaning companies play a vital role when it comes to the handover from tenancy to tenancy, and for landlords suffering voids.
But he warns that too many cleaning companies are failing, and this was made worse by the pandemic and Brexit.
“The first real impact came from the lockdowns implemented in the UK, which resulted in many households cancelling their cleaning services to minimise the risk of infection to both themselves and the cleaners – and agencies doing the same. Due to these cancellations, many cleaning companies experienced a sharp drop in April 2020, with figures showing an estimated 60 per cent decrease in revenue within that sector.”
He says that existing, long-established companies have also struggled to remain afloat in recent years, although the full reopening of the economy is starting to shift things the other way.
Brexit has also played its part, reducing the number of cleaning professionals – many from mainland Europe - with not enough of a recruitment drive to back this up.
“The decline in cleaners was always going to be an inevitable consequence of Brexit and the changes to immigration rules” Evans says.
“But the government seems to who have done little about this. Cleaning is all too often seen as low-skilled work, but it’s actually the opposite of that. Cleaning done really well is a skill that not every one can do – it’s why professional cleaning companies exist in the first place. They should be celebrated, not demeaned.”
He added: “Brexit and Covid haven’t helped, and neither will the cost-of-living crisis, which could see more landlords and letting agencies tighten their belts and start to see cleaning as a luxury, when frankly it is a necessity for the smooth running of the sector.”
Evans says the recovery and ongoing success of good, reliable cleaning firms is desperately needed if the private rental sector is to continue with its upwards growth.
“If there aren’t companies there to help thoroughly clean homes in between tenancies, that causes issues with hold-ups, delayed inventories, unhappy tenants, etc. Equally, homes that are left empty for a period of time – and not cleaned on a regular basis – can quickly lose their appeal and landlords will simply find it increasingly difficult to fill their homes with tenants.”
More broadly, Evans comments: “Homes need to be cleaned to a very high standard after a tenancy, no matter how well the tenant has kept the place. There will always be those little things that the eye can’t see, that the cleaner will. Plus, of course, there will unfortunately be some rental properties which are left in a less than brilliant state, in which case cleaning companies become worth their weight in gold.”
He adds: “Equally, cleaning companies will play a key role after evictions for, say, anti-social behaviour, where it’s highly likely the home will have been left in a bad way. And they have an important job to do during landlord void periods in keeping a home up to scratch so a landlord has a better chance of letting the home out quickly.”
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